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St. George • Ben Hoffman says it was the hardest thing he's ever done in his life.

And he won.

The native of Grand Junction, Colo., battled wind gusts that turned an already difficult course into a veritable nightmare to win the Ironman St. George on Saturday afternoon with a time of nine hours, seven minutes and four seconds.

"The course was insane," said Hoffman after winning his second full Ironman event. He was fourth here last year.

He also won a full Ironman — which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run — in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Hoffman, clad in a red, white and blue racing outfit, attended the University of Montana and lives part-time in Tucson, Ariz., where he trains.

San Francisco's Meredith Kessler, 33, won the women's division in commanding fashion.

Germany's Maik Twelseik, second last year, was also second this time around in the men's race. Belgium's Axel Zeebroek was third.

The last full Ironman St. George — it moves to a half-Ironman next year — will be remembered for gnarly wind gusts of 35-40 miles-per-hour that almost caused officials to call off the first leg — the 2.4-mile swim — because the water was so choppy at Sand Hollow Reservoir.

The wind kicked up about 15 minutes after the professionals started and just as the 1,400 or so other competitors were about to begin the swim.

"Fifteen minutes later, it would have been a no-go [for the swim]," said Eric Vervloet, Chief Marketing Officer of Ironman World Corporation. "...People were panicked."

The Ironman chief acknowledged that confusion reigned during the swim for the age-group participants due to the 4-foot waves and whitecaps caused by the wind. He said a volunteer mistakenly told a few competitors that the race had been cancelled and that those competitors will mostly likely have their $600 entry fees waved in a future Ironman event.

"It was chaos out there," Hoffman said of the swim.

Twitter: @drewjay